(Bloomberg) -- Man Group Plc, Fidelity International, and PricewaterhouseCoopers are among the City firms backing a new taskforce aiming at improving socio-economic diversity in the UK finance industry. 

The companies are among the 12 founding partners of Progress Together, according to a press release Friday. The nationwide body will offer a series of workshops, resources, mentoring by firms and benchmarking to improve progression and senior level representation for those from poorer backgrounds.

The move comes as new data from a survey of nearly 10,000 people from 49 financial and professional services firms found that employees from non-professional backgrounds are 30% less likely to be working at a senior level compared with colleagues from professional backgrounds, according to the release.

The City of London is struggling to narrow its yawning class divide, with people from well-off backgrounds dominating the sector. An earlier survey by Bridge Group found that:

  • 89% of senior roles in financial services are held by people from higher socio-economic backgrounds, compared with 37% across the UK working population
  • Employees from lower socio-economic backgrounds progress 25% slower than peers, with no link to performance
  • The class pay gap in financial services is £17,500 ($22,000), the largest of any sector

“The launch of Progress Together will advance our vision of a sector where performance is valued over ‘fit’ and ‘polish,’” said Catherine McGuinness, chair of the Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce.

The launch of the taskforce comes as finance continues to struggle with diversity. Firms across the industry are trying to raise the number of non-White staff in senior positions. NatWest Group Plc, which has about 1% Black senior managers, has set its own 3% target for these roles by 2025. HSBC Holdings Plc has pledged to double the number of Black staff in senior roles over the same period.

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